Washington, Feb 18 (IANS): Five former police officers in Memphis, who have been charged with murder over the death of African-American man Tyre Nichols, have pleaded not guilty in their first court appearance.
The 29-year-old died in a hospital on January 10, three days after a traffic stop by Memphis police.
On January 27, the Memphis Police Department released four graphic videos, totalling more than an hour of footage, showing the five former police officers, who are also black, brutally beating the victim.
Tadarrius Bean, Demetrius Haley, Desmond Mills Jr, Emmitt Martin III and Justin Smith were fired after an internal investigation by the police department, the BBC reported.
During the hearing at the Shelby County Criminal Court on Friday, Judge James Jones confirmed the five defendants had pleaded not guilty to charges of second-degree murder, aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
The former officers are currently out on bail, with the next hearing scheduled on May 1.
They face up to 60 years in prison if convicted of murder.
The Memphis Police Department's so-called SCORPION unit, to which the fired officers belonged, has been permanently deactivated.
The fallout has also reached other agencies, including the Memphis Fire Department, which fired three emergency medical technicians.
Two additional Memphis police officers have also been relieved of duty.
The death of Nichols came nearly three years after the police murder of African-American man George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Floyd, 46, died on May 25, 2020, after an encounter with Minneapolis police, during which white officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes while making an arrest with other colleagues.
The police killing of Floyd sparked outrage and protests across the US in the summer of 2020 against police brutality and systemic racism.
Police killed 1,186 people in the US last year, according to Mapping Police Violence.
African-Americans were 26 per cent of those killed by police in 2022 despite accounting for only 13 per cent of the population.